Oregon Football: 5 Players with the Most to Prove at Pro Day
Oregon football hosts NFL scouts Thursday at its annual pro day, and the 2014 class of draft-eligible Ducks can make headway in their journey to NFL draft weekend.
Oregon has a number of NFL hopefuls hoping to impress the pros this week, including dismissed tight end Colt Lyerla, who is participating at Portland State's pro day on Wednesday, per Comcast SportsNet.
Five Ducks involved in Thursday's proceedings in Eugene, Ore., have the most to gain from their performances.
Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.
DL Taylor Hart
Taylor Hart has ground to cover before May's NFL draft. The defensive lineman suffered a broken foot, which kept him out of the Senior Bowl.
Hart wrote in his draft diary for The Oregonian that the injury would limit his ability to prepare for the draft combine:
The injury does hurt my preparation a little bit on the combine (defensive lineman participate Feb. 24) because it's almost healed but still, for almost two and a half weeks now, I haven't been able to work on the running techniques.
Indeed, he was unable to participate in most of the drills. Pro day is Hart's opportunity to show scouts more than he's been able to this offseason, and give teams a more clear picture of his pro position. Hart played tackle for Oregon but is a defensive end in the NFL. NFL.com's Dan Greenspan writes Hart's selection will depend on scheme.
WR Josh Huff
The same explosiveness that helped Josh Huff key Oregon's passing attack in 2013 generated the wide receiver positive buzz thus far in the offseason.
The Kansas City Star's beat writer Terez Paylor tweeted that Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir touted Huff as "the best [wide receiver] at the Senior Bowl." Huff continued to impress at the draft combine, where he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash.
Huff is in a challenging spot because this year's wide receiver class is arguably the best of any position, so standing out requires a truly special effort.
Huff's performance in Oregon's offense is a solid foundation, as NFL.com analyst Nolan Nawrocki writes Huff's "impressive skill set...translates well to the evolution of NFL offenses."
LB Boseko Lokombo
A seal of approval from the Pro Football Writers Association Defensive Rookie of the Year is a strong endorsement for any aspiring draftee, and that's exactly what Boseko Lokombo earned from former Oregon teammate Kiko Alonso last month via Twitter.
Lokombo went into February's draft combine somewhat off the radar. Andrew Greif of The Oregonian reported Lokombo as a likely seventh rounder or undrafted free agent, and NFL.com's analysis said he "[l]acks throwback linebacker toughness and functional playing strength."
However, the "freak" athleticism Alonso touted could win some converts at pro day. As pro offenses become more wide open, a versatile outside linebacker like Lokombo can play a crucial role in nickel packages.
CB Terrance Mitchell
Terrance Mitchell's early entry into the NFL draft was somewhat surprising, given that teammate and fellow cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu earned some initial first-round evaluations and Mitchell is projected as a fifth-round pick, per CBSSports.com.
However, a big junior year in which Mitchell nabbed a team-high five interceptions is a testament to Mitchell's playmaking ability. A strong showing Thursday to give scouts a more favorable view of his measurables should complement his demonstrated on-field ability to make game-changing plays.
RB De'Anthony Thomas
The head-turning performance of former West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin at the 2013 draft combine helped him to a first-round selection, and also gave smaller fast backs, slot receivers and returners more attention.
The versatile Thomas could be that player in 2014, but Kent State running back Dri Archer stole his thunder at the combine with a 4.26-second 40-yard dash. Thomas ran it in 4.5 seconds.
Now, Thomas is left facing an uphill climb before May's draft. CBSSports.com projects Thomas as a sixth- or seventh-round selection.
Thomas may not run the fastest 40-yard dash, but his demonstrated quickness in three seasons at Oregon dropped plenty of jaws and left countless defenders bewildered. His ability to play several positions should help his draft standing, and pro day is a prime opportunity to showcase his multifaceted skill set in a more intimate setting.